The Aggressor

WHILE Brahma-Dutt ruled Banaras, Bodhisatva was born as his son. Brahma-Dutt named his son Shilava.

Over time, Shilava became the King of Banaras. He ruled the people justly and made them happy. When some per- sons committed theft or other crimes because of poverty, dire need or ignorance, the King did not punish them. He called them to him, gave them the money they needed, and taught them how to live correctly. Due to this, crime became less and less, and the people began to love their King.

The kingdom of Kosala was across the border from the realm of Banaras. The Minister of Kosala thought that Shilava was a weak king. He told the King of Kosala, “Your Highness, the King of Banaras is afraid of punishing even bandits. It should be easy for us to conquer him.”

The King of Kosala wanted to test the strength of Shilava. He ordered some of his soldiers to cross the border and loot some of the villages of Banaras.

When these soldiers tried to loot the villages, the villagers caught them and presented them before King Shilava.

“Friends,” said Shilava, “You look like strangers. What made you attack our villages?”

“O King,” the soldiers replied, “We were prompted by hunger.”

“You could have come to me and got what you wanted,” said Shilava. He got some money from his treasury, distributed it among the soldiers of Kosala, and sent them away.

When the King of Kosala learnt what happened, he was convinced that Shilava was a weakling. Still, he wanted more confirmation. So he sent many soldiers to destroy a few towns in the Banaras state.

But the people of Banaras were vigilant. They caught the soldiers again and presented them before the King. The King once again gave them money and sent them away.

The King of Kosala was convinced he could conquer the King of Banaras. He marched his armies on Banaras. When the ministers and army chiefs got news about the march of the troops of Kosala upon their kingdom, they went to the King and said to him, “Your Highness, the King of Kosala is coming to attack us. He is not aware of our strengths. Kindly issue an order for preparations for war.

Shilava detested war. “Let there be no blood-shed. Let them have Banaras if they want it. Keep the doors wide open for them,” he said.

“You need not come like enemies,” he sent word to the King of Kosala, “Come like friends. You are welcome.” This message convinced the King of Kosala still more that Shilava was quite incapable.

The King of Kosala was incapable of correct behaviour. When he entered the Court of Banaras, he ordered his men to arrest Shilava and his ministers.

“This is not proper behaviour on the part of guests,” Shilava protested. The King of Kosala only laughed loudly in reply.

Shilava and his officers were deprived of their logo and were changed into everyday clothes. They were warned to leave the capital before sunset. If they failed to do so, the penalty was death.

Accordingly, Shilava left the city with his ministers and entered the forest before it was dark. For the night, they rested in the woods and went to sleep without food.

At about midnight, they were disturbed by the arrival of several bandits with torches. The bandits said to the King, “O King, we had been bandits. But because of your goodness, we could live all these years honestly. But our troubles start now. So, this night we looted the palace and brought back these things. Here are your dresses and ornaments and swords. Here is food for you from the palace. Eat the food, wear the dresses and tell us what we should do with the rest of the booty.”

Shilava and his ministers ate the food and put on the dresses. “You should have discovered how the new King proposes solving your life problem. Return all this loot to the King and ask him to show you a way of living,” Shilava advised the bandits.

“Sire,” the bandits replied, “one who is treacherous to his host cannot have any sense of justice. We shall never acknowledge that scoundrel as our King. You are still our King. Show us the way.”

“If you refuse to return this loot,” Shilava said, “it shall be my duty to do so.”

Accompanied by his ministers Shilava turned back and reached the court by the following day. The enemy king was surprised to see Shilava back in his royal robes.

“You have been warned to leave the city,” he said to Shilava. “Why are you here still, courting death?”

Shilava told the new King what had happened and added, “O King, there is no doubt that you deprived me of my throne with the only idea of ruling the country better. The poor, ignorant bandits did not realise it, and in their foolishness, they robbed your palace. I promised them you would solve all their problems and return your properties.”

The King of Kosala was strangely touched. He fell at the feet of Shilava and lamented, “O Great One! Even the bandits love you! Your behaviour is so exemplary! Yet I could not appreciate such fine things. I was led astray by my wicked minister who has no understanding, and I deprived you of your kingdom. I do not want it anymore. Take it back. It is enough if I can have your lasting friendship. Pardon all my sins!”

Shilava agreed to take back the throne. He kept the King of Kosala and his forces as his guests for some days and then sent them away.

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